The Magic Behind the Rockettes


Leah Frain, Writer

Since 1933, the Radio City Rockettes have been a dance organization involved in the Christmas Spectacular. Many families enjoy the Rockette performances during the holiday season, but little know about the secrets that go into the magic of the show.

In preparation for the show, the Rockettes practice for six weeks straight, six hours a day. During this time, they perfect their routines as well as the precision of their eye high kicks. The Rockettes perform 300 kicks in one show, with up to four shows a day. Enduring this physical strain results in these women having to train extremely hard in their off-season in order to have the energy to make it through a single performance.

Aside from upholding the highest skill level in dance, the Rockettes must also maintain the tradition of the organization. For example, every Rockette learns the signature wooden soldier dance. This routine requires the women to work together in order to make precise lines and achieve the famous fall. Julie Branam, the director and choreographer of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, explained, “It starts by having someone rock up on their heels and start to go back. You raise your hands up, slide your hands through, and open your arms.” Julie continued, saying, “Their feet have to be completely lined up because you don’t want the fall to go one way or another because someone could get hurt.”

For the past few years, the Rockettes have performed a tap dance known as the “12 Days of Christmas.” After tapping through each of the 12 days, the dancers perform another tap routine later in the show known as “Rag Dolls.” To ensure that the sounds of the tapping can be heard throughout the theater, each dancer has their tap shoes microphoned. In addition to loud taps, each routine has a specialized costume to entertain the audience. In the “12 Days” performance, the costume is inspired by candy canes, while in “Rag Dolls,” the dancers are dressed up as dolls. With a different costume for every routine, quick changes are extremely important. At one point during the show, the women have a mere 78 seconds the change their costumes.

In addition to the Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes also perform in various events that represent New York City, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting, and much more. This year, the Christmas Spectacular runs from Nov. 10 to Jan. 1 and is sure to bring holiday cheer to all who see it.